The George Lindemann Journal
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Clockwise from top right, work by Tamera Leigh Staten; ChiLab; Milton Glaser; Lladró Atelier’s Dazzle collection; Dirk Vander Kooij. More Photos »
By JULIE LASKY
Published: May 22, 2013
The 25th International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which ended Tuesday, offered many surprises. There were dollhouse-size candelabra inserted into hanging glass bulbs like ships in a bottle and a coffee table whose base was sheathed in python. There was even wallpaper inspired by a 1909 New York Times article about a monkey in a bathhouse.
But nothing caught the eye like the colossal head of William Shakespeare emerging from an African carpet.
Shakespeare in Africa, part of a rug collection by Milton Glaser for the Spanish company Nanimarquina, reflects the 83-year-old graphic designer’s efforts to yoke together disparate subjects in a way that avoids scrambling the brain. “I wanted to take two things that have no relationship with each other,” Mr. Glaser said, “and do what art does: to unify the apparently unrelated.”
He wasn’t alone in his shoehorning. Two booths away, another Spanish company, Lladró, presented several of its porcelain figurines, including a classic macaw, wrapped in World War I-era camouflage. A news release for the collection, which is called Dazzle, explained the concept as “the art of disguise, of the unrecognizable and the imperceptible.”
Add to that the art of the remix. In design, as in any creative endeavor, mashups paradoxically represent inexhaustible possibilities as well as the plateau of invention. You can cover a macaw in any number of patterns, but the real challenge lies in moving beyond the bird. Given Spain’s economic trials, Lladró may be forgiven for making cosmetic adjustments to existing pieces rather than hiring designers to produce a new collection and investing in new molds.
But Dazzle wasn’t just a mash-up; it was also a mascot. The furniture fair — along with a host of exhibitions and openings taking place over the re-branded 12-day festival called NYCxDesign — showed that design is all over the map, its contours muddled and its direction uncertain.
To be sure, when more than 500 exhibitors from around the world put on a show, as they did at ICFF, you can expect diversity. But you should also be able to pick out coherent strains of form, material or style.
Apart from a mysterious eruption of bronze and copper objects, and Swarovski’s ongoing search for another household product in which to embed its crystals, those strains weren’t clear. Several years of recession have taken their toll on innovation. And while there were many goods to admire, few had the uplifting effect of groundbreaking design.
“I’m not seeing a lot of new ideas,” said Noel Wiggins, the founder of the New York design company Areaware, which is known for producing whimsical objects by local designers and this year showed a new version of a radio dock by Jonas Damon with an app for tuning in only public radio stations. “The design languages of the last five years are still with us.”
And yet there were nascent signs of what may be next. With each ICFF, more emissaries show up from the frontiers of technology to demonstrate how computer-controlled tools will transform the look, price and environmental impact of objects.
For example, the British designer Tom Dixon, who previously showed teams assembling lighting fixtures to demonstrate how easy it is to produce one’s own designs, this year appeared with a digital laser cutter and other tools to create what was, in effect, a portable pollution-free factory making lacy metal pendant lamps.
And Dirk Vander Kooij, a young Dutch designer, showed the Chubby chair, made with a robotic arm that extrudes brightly colored recycled plastic in a continuous line. Each chair takes about a half-hour to produce, Mr. Vander Kooij said, and sells for around $400. He also showed Chubby coat hangers, created from the variegated material the robot spits out when Mr. Vander Kooij changes the color of the plastic. The hangers are about $130 for a set of eight.
Chubby may not look like a revolution, but it is approaching one. Compared with the five-figure prices attached to 3-D-printed furniture a decade ago — pieces that took hours, if not days, to produce — Mr. Vander Kooij’s work is snappy and affordable. And it doesn’t have the brittle, ethereal quality of early 3-D printing. He drives home this point on his Web site, where he describes Chubby as: “precise as toothpaste. Heavy like oak.”
In another wing of the Javits show, Massan Dembélé, a master weaver from Burkina Faso, sat at a loom constructed from logs bound with twine and wove handspun cotton cloth decorated with West African totems, part of a program organized by the nonprofit British European Design Group to assist artisans in making goods for export. Mr. Dembélé operated the loom with his bare feet and wove his crocodiles and fish from patterns embedded in his brain.
Craft and small-batch production are ripe to produce something new as well. Though artisanship is often touted as an antidote to digital culture, Mr. Vander Kooij and Mr. Dembélé are more alike than different. Both men control the fabrication process, and that’s no small thing. With the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh renewing concerns about remote factory conditions, there is added value to the idea of designers producing locally and autonomously.
The furniture fair and the coterie of New York design week events offer a stage for such efforts. This year, for example, Wanted Design in Chelsea presented “The Carrot Concept,” a show of furniture produced in El Salvador by local designers, architects and entrepreneurs, working with Jerry Helling, the president and creative director of the American furniture company Bernhardt.
And though conceptual depth was rare, this design week did offer some of it, as when students of the Products of Design M.F.A. program at the School of Visual Arts appeared at Wanted Design with tools that helped visitors think more deeply about objects. A digital microscope, for instance, magnified surfaces 170 times to expose an alien world of beauty and order within everyday materials. In a related project, a series of brief recorded messages purported to express the viewpoints of the items on display.
Startling design innovation often follows material innovation. Nothing extraordinary happened on this front, either, but it is always enjoyable to watch designers at play.
At the Javits, John Eric Byers, a furniture maker, displayed gouged hardwood pieces that he painted and lacquered the color of sable and accented with 24-karat gold. At Wanted Design, Sinje Ollen, a knitter whose needles never left her hands while she chatted, showed an Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen sheathed in bumpy emerald green wool and a modular rug made of zipped strips of knitted fabric. At “NoHo Next,” a show of young designers’ work curated by the organizers of the three-year-old NoHo Design District, Souda from Brooklyn displayed textured, irregularly shaped porcelain vessels cast from leather molds. At Collective .1, a new design show on a Hudson River pier, Kyle DeWoody’s Grey Area gallery included work by Scott Campbell, a tattoo artist: fragrant wood panels burned with ornate patterns. And at BKLYN Designs, which returned to Dumbo after a hiatus, John Randall of Bien Hecho in the Navy Yard offered a water cooler shingled with wood from a New York City water tower.
All these events were staged under the new moniker NYCxDesign (pronounced “NYC by Design”). An initiative of City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, this 12-day assortment of some 200 activities covered all five boroughs and touched various design disciplines, from graphics to jewelry to architecture. The mission, Ms. Quinn has said, is to create jobs in these industries while attracting visitors to New York, much as they flock to the city for Fashion Week.
In its first year, NYCxDesign was mainly a marketing campaign, providing street banners, a Web site with listings, a scheduling app and a presence on digital billboards in Times Square. Designers should be grateful for that much. Design doesn’t get out and strut around like fashion, and it needs more visibility. Milan comes alive when design is celebrated, but New York design week gets lost in the urban shuffle.
As long as people can get past the confounding abbreviation, NYCxDesign is poised to help both design and the economy. Now that the festival is over, Ms. Quinn said, the Economic Development Corporation is studying its economic success and growth potential. She added that she is confident the initiative will continue and hopes she will be around to lead it, something that depends on the success of her mayoral candidacy.
“Whoever the next mayor is, they’ll have NYCxDesign,” she added. “There’s no question in my mind.”
‘Artist as Jeweler’ exhibition at Bass Museum on Miami Beach reveals unknown skills of well-known artists
By Anne Tschida
Special to the Miami Herald
What: ‘From Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler,’ through July 21 and ‘Eve Sussman/Rufus Corp.,’ through Aug. 11
Where: Bass Museum of Art, 2100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; www.bassmuseum.org; 305-673-7530
Admission: $8, $6 seniors
From Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler could have fallen into a too-common hole, where museums attempt to combine fashion, design or crafts with fine art and come up with something not worthy of any of the disciplines. Many a respectable museum has done it. Fortunately, for the most part, the Bass Museum of Art has avoided this with a lovely exhibit that focuses entirely on wearable jewelry. All the pieces highlighted qualify as noteworthy jewelry, without the strained inclusion of less-than-successful works from big names. .
The exhibit also reveals significant trends in Modern and contemporary art and highlights the remarkable skills and art-making of some of the world’s best-known names.
Part of the reason the Bass pulled this off is French curator Diane Venet’s unique, personal approach. After her own sculptor husband Bernar Venet proposed to her with a silver ring he made impromptu on her finger, she started to ask his artist friends if they had made jewelry not for sale or exhibition, but for family and friends. She then commissioned pieces from the likes of Frank Stella, Kader Attia and other artists whom she thought would not cheapen the process and would take the creation as serious as their art. Eventually she would collect items from artists no longer alive and from across the globe, but pieces that remained true to the initial venture.
What resulted is an array of works, 200 from 135 artists, arranged somewhat by themes or styles or eras. But what is amazing is how many of these pieces jump out immediately as announcing the hand of their creator.
Take for example one of artists in the title. The silver “Rabbit Necklace,” with its big ears, is obviously as the work of Jeff Koons. There’s the Dalí brooch, a gold spoon with a clock-face carved into the small shallow of the bowl — who wouldn’t want to wear that one?
The list goes on. Anish Kapoor hangs a miniature version of his multi-reflective sculptural dishes from a chain. Yoko Ono spells out “Imagine Peace” in a yellow-and-white gold ring shaped like a record. Andy Warhol wove together a watch from five little frames of views of New York City, overlaid with red clock hands with five different times. Pendants on a chain that look like tiny computer or electrical grids, made from mixed metals and plastic — it’s no surprise these were created by Nam June Paik.
There are works of gems and glass, gold and silver, acrylic and stone, textile and metal. Some are representational; one grouping includes jewelry with distinct natural life, flowers and spiders, from Roberto Matta and Louise Bourgeois. Others make a statement, such Santiago Sierra’s “Diamond Trafficking Kills,” studded with diamonds. And still others are just fun to look at, such as Tom Sach’s “Polar Bear Club Necklace,” which strings together quarters punched through the middle with small, white polar bear dolls.
A few pieces fall flat, in that they don’t seem to represent a form, era, style or particular hand. Which is what makes the rest of the works so interesting.
By ELLEN GAMERMAN and MARY M. LANE A lady in a bonnet is shaking up the art world. When “After Lunch,” Berthe Morisot’s portrait of a doe-eyed woman, sold for $10.9 million in February, it set a record as the most expensive work ever sold by a female artist at auction. It also helped power a wave of
Partner Without the Prize
Twenty-two years after being passed by, the architect Denise Scott Brown, 81, said at an awards ceremony for women in architecture last month that it was time she share in the 1991 Pritzker Prize that was given to her design partner and husband, Robert Venturi, with whom she had worked side by side.
“They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony,” Ms. Scott Brown said. “Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity.”
Her remarks prompted two students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to start an online petition demanding that the panel that administers architecture’s highest prize revisit that decision.
The petition has now drawn 9,000 signatures, many of them from the world’s most famous architects, including six prior Pritzker winners. And it has reignited long-simmering tensions in the architectural world over whether women have been consistently denied the standing they deserve in a field whose most prestigious award was not given to a woman until 2004, when Zaha Hadid won.
“The progress of recognizing the place and the contribution of women in architecture has been incredibly slow,” said Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. “It’s been thought to be boys’ stuff.”
The prize organization has long defended its exclusion of Ms. Scott Brown on the ground that back then it honored only individual architects, a practice that changed in 2001 with the selection of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. They are among the architects who have signed the petition, along with fellow Pritzker winners Richard Meier, Ms. Hadid, Wang Shu and Rem Koolhaas, who called the exclusion of Ms. Scott Brown “an embarrassing injustice which it would be great to undo.”
Mr. Venturi, 87, also signed the petition, but Ms. Scott Brown said he was not well and unable to comment. When he won in 1991, she did not attend the award ceremony in protest.
The Pritzker winner is chosen annually by a panel of a half-dozen or so independent jurors. There was one woman on the panel in 1991 and there is one woman on the panel today, Martha Thorne, the Pritzker’s executive director.
“Jurors change over the years, so this presents us with an unusual situation,” Ms. Thorne said of the inclusion request. “The most that I can say at this point is that I will refer this important matter to the current jury at their next meeting.”
The ceremony for this year’s Pritzker winner, Toyo Ito, is to be May 29 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. The $100,000 prize, financed by the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, has been awarded since 1979.
While about half of architecture students in the United States are women, only a quarter of employees of architecture firms across the country are female, according to 2011 data from the American Institute of Architects. The number is smaller — 17 percent — when counting principals or partners in architecture firms.
Design professionals cite many reasons, including the sense that architecture involves business and construction, which have both been traditionally considered the province of men. And still persistent is the mythology of the architect as a solo male genius — the Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s “Fountainhead.”
“It’s embedded and the Pritzker Prizes embed it,” said Beverly Willis, an architect who founded the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, which supports women in architecture. “They’re totally outdated, they’re totally passé and if they continue trying to isolate the Howard Roark man, they’re totally irrelevant.”
Ms. Scott Brown is one of the rare female architects to have achieved prominence.
“Denise Scott Brown is sort of like architecture’s grandmother,” said Arielle Assouline-Lichten, a Harvard design student who started the petition with Caroline James. “Almost all architecture students have studied her in school. Everyone grew up with her as the female professional who’s always been around and never really gets the recognition.”
Ms. Scott Brown, who was born in Zambia, met Mr. Venturi in 1960 at the University of Pennsylvania, where they were on the faculty and began working together. They married in 1967. She joined his firm that same year.
“Some people said, ‘She married the boss and thought she could get ahead,’ “ Ms. Scott Brown said in a telephone interview from her home in Philadelphia. “But if anyone was the boss, I was. We really were colleagues and we taught together. It was a very, very wonderful collaboration for both of us.”
Since 1960, she and Mr. Venturi have teamed up on buildings like the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London and Franklin Court, a museum and memorial to Benjamin Franklin in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. They have run a practice together — Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates in Philadelphia, now VSBA — written books together, taught classes together and jointly developed groundbreaking theories about architecture and planning.
“You can’t separate them,” Mr. Bergdoll said. “It’s one of those great partnerships.”
The couple is known in large part for upending Modernism by embracing the vernacular of neon signs and kitsch as legitimate design. Their work with a class of Yale architecture students in Las Vegas in 1968 — examining casinos, parking lots and fast-food restaurants — resulted in their 1972 book, “Learning From Las Vegas” (written with Steven Izenour), which became an influential design treatise and helped usher in the period known as postmodernism.
Ms. Scott Brown said she was moved by the recent outpouring of support. “There needs to be some kind of corrective action,” she said. “Let’s not say corrective — let’s say inclusive.”
Several design school deans have signed, including Mohsen Mostafavi at Harvard, Sarah Whiting at Rice and Jennifer Wolch at the University of California at Berkeley.
“The initiative on the part of the students is something that I really value,” Mr. Mostafavi said. “I hope they will be this proactive when it comes to their own futures.”
Robert A. M. Stern, the dean of Yale’s Architecture School, said he declined to sign the petition because he objected to its use of the word “demand,” but that he backed it in principle. “It would be wonderful for the Pritzker committee to review the situation and to offer her the prize,” Mr. Stern said. “The nature of the collaboration was so intense on every level.”
Architects say the Pritzker is unlikely to reverse its decision, in part because several members of the jury at that time are no longer living, including Ada Louise Huxtable, J. Carter Brown and Giovanni Agnelli.
The Web site ArchDaily on April 1 posited the counterargument that Mr. Venturi was awarded the Pritzker based on projects completed before Ms. Scott Brown joined the firm, like the Vanna Venturi House (1964). Yet the award citation directly acknowledged Ms. Scott Brown’s contributions.
“His understanding of the urban context of architecture, complemented by his talented partner, Denise Scott Brown, with whom he has collaborated on both more writings and built works, has resulted in changing the course of architecture in this century,” the citation said, “allowing architects and consumers the freedom to accept inconsistencies in form and pattern, to enjoy popular taste.”
For Ms. Scott Brown, the sting remains fresh. “When we married I suddenly was being told, “Look, let’s just keep this photograph of architects,’ ” she recalled. “I’d say, ‘I am an architect and they’d say, ‘Would you mind moving out of the picture, please?’ “
Daniel Reich, 39, Resourceful Art Dealer, Dies
Daniel Reich, a scrappy and innovative New York art dealer who held exhibitions for two years in his tiny studio apartment and, even after renting a traditional gallery, continued to show art nomadically in places like the Chelsea Hotel and a former delicatessen in Midtown, died on Dec. 25 at his parents’ home in Larchmont, N.Y., his sister confirmed this week. He was 39.
Mr. Reich was among a group of young dealers who brought new energy into contemporary art in New York in the early 2000s, tacking against the trend toward a more button-down, sleek, big-money business.
He first showed emerging artists and collectives in his 200-square-foot ground-floor studio apartment on West 21st Street, where visitors had to ring the bell for No. 2A to see the shows. Mr. Reich stowed his inflatable air mattress in the tub during business hours.
“His bathroom ended up being the art storage, and there was some incident when the shower got turned on and damaged something,” said the artist Scott Reeder, whose work was in Mr. Reich’s first exhibition in the apartment, a free-form group show called “Miss World 1972,” in December 2001.
That show included many young artists who were then little known but who went on to have significant careers. Among them were Roe Ethridge, Virgil Marti, Mr. Reeder and his brother Tyson, and Eli Sudbrack, known as Assume Vivid Astro Focus. Holland Cotter of The New York Times praised the show, saying that Mr. Reich had “figured out a way to be in Chelsea without necessarily being of Chelsea.”
The gallery moved to a modest commercial space on West 23rd Street in late 2003 and made its name with shows emphasizing small-scale works that projected an intimate, sometimes melancholic, hand-wrought quality. Newcomers like Christian Holstad and Hernan Bas, along with established artists like Jack Pierson, often explored gay sexuality and gender in unexpected ways.
Mr. Reich also focused on painters, like Paul P. and Henry Taylor, who in a 2005 exhibition included a portrait of Mr. Reich “in all his bemused, bespectacled, bright-eyed intensity,” as Roberta Smith described it in The Times.
Alfred Daniel Reich was born on Dec. 8, 1973, in New York City and raised in Brooklyn Heights and Larchmont. In addition to his sister, he is survived by his parents, James and Barbara Reich.
Mr. Reich studied art history at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. After graduating in 1996, he went to work for Pat Hearn, a pioneering gallery owner in the East Village and later Chelsea; she made Mr. Reich her director.
When Ms. Hearn died at 45 in 2000, Mr. Reich struck out on his own, with so little money that his mother had to help him pay the rent on his apartment. “The bottom line,” he said in an interview, “was that I really wanted to have a gallery, and sometimes you just have to start doing something with whatever you have at your disposal.”
Despite critical success, he struggled to make the gallery work as a business, and in 2011 he closed his commercial space. In a posting on his Web site announcing the closing, he sounded more hopeful than dejected.
“In the original spirit of the gallery, which began out of my apartment in the winter after 9/11, I feel that this moment has a specificity ripe for change,” he wrote. “One of my favorite things about my gallery is that it exists close to the earth and is a gallery of its time.”
When a new home for the American Folk Art Museum opened on West 53d Street in Manhattan in 2001 it was hailed as a harbinger of hope for the city after the Sept. 11 attacks and praised for its bold architecture.
“Its heart is in the right time as well as the right place,” Herbert Muschamp wrote in his architecture review in The New York Times, calling the museum’s sculptural bronze facade “already a Midtown icon.”
Now, a mere 12 years later, the building is going to be demolished.
In its place the adjacent Museum of Modern Art, which bought the building in 2011, will put up an expansion, which will connect to a new tower with floors for the Modern on the other side of the former museum. And the folk museum building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, will take a dubious place in history as having had one of the shortest lives of an architecturally ambitious project in Manhattan.
“It’s very rare that a building that recent comes down, especially a building that was such a major design and that got so much publicity when it opened for its design — mostly very positive,” said Andrew S. Dolkart, the director of Columbia University’s historic preservation program. “The building is so solid looking on the street, and then it becomes a disposable artifact. It’s unusual and it’s tragic because it’s a notable work of 21st century architecture by noteworthy architects who haven’t done that much work in the city, and it’s a beautiful work with the look of a handcrafted facade.”
MoMA officials said the building’s design did not fit their plans because the opaque facade is not in keeping with the glass aesthetic of the rest of the museum. The former folk museum is also set back farther than MoMA’s other properties, and the floors would not line up.
“It’s not a comment on the quality of the building or Tod and Billie’s architecture,” Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s director said.
Mr. Lowry personally went to the architects’ offices to inform them of the museum’s decision, a gesture that Ms. Tsien said she appreciated.
“We feel really disappointed,” she said in an interview. “There are of course the personal feelings — your buildings are like your children, and this is a particular, for us, beloved small child. But there is also the feeling that it’s a kind of loss for architecture, because it’s a special building, a kind of small building that’s crafted, that’s particular and thoughtful at a time when so many buildings are about bigness.”
The folk art museum, which had once envisioned the building as a stimulus for its growth, ended up selling the property, at 45 West 53d Street, to pay off the $32 million it had borrowed to finance an expansion. It now operates at a smaller site on Lincoln Square, at West 66th Street.
Mr. Lowry said the expansion would complete the MoMA campus, which will ultimately consist of five buildings, four of them on West 53rd Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas.
Still to be built is an 82-story tower just west of the folk museum that is being developed by Hines, a Houston company, and was designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel. It will include apartments as well as exhibition space for the museum.
When the projects are finished the museum will gain about 10,000 square feet of gallery space at the former folk art site and about 40,000 in the Nouvel building, officials said. The Modern’s second, fourth and fifth floors will line up with those in both buildings. (The second-floor galleries are double height.)
“We’ll have a completely integrated west end to the museum,” Mr. Lowry said. “Floor plates will extend seamlessly.”
Precisely what will be displayed in the new galleries has yet to be determined, but Mr. Lowry said they would include work from the Modern’s “midcentury collections, early Modern collections and temporary exhibitions.”
The cost for the project has not been announced, he said, and fund-raising has yet to begin.
MoMA’s 2004 renovation, designed by the Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, increased the museum’s gallery space to 125,000 square feet, from 85,000 (and the overall size to 630,000 square feet, from 378,000). But the museum still needs more room for exhibitions.
“We have a lot of art that we own that we would like to show,” said Jerry I. Speyer, the real estate developer who is the museum’s chairman. “When we built what exists today we didn’t get as much exhibition space as we really need.”
Ms. Tsien said she and Mr. Williams, her husband, wished the Modern had found a way to reuse what they designed and to realize its value.
“It’s a building that kids study in architecture school,” she said. “They study it as a kind of precedent to understand how buildings are made and to understand the kind of space it is because it is a complex and interesting building in a very small site.”
But, she added, “it doesn’t seem to make sense to second-guess how they might have used it.”
The Modern will interview architects to design the new addition, Mr. Lowry said, and hopes to select one by the end of this year. It expects to have the building demolished by then.
Construction of the Nouvel project is expected to start in 2014, with both new buildings being completed simultaneously in 2017 or 2018, Mr. Lowry said.
The museum has been aggressive about expansion. In 1996 it bought the Dorset Hotel, a 1920s building on West 54th Street, and two adjacent brownstones, using much of the sites for its extensive renovation in 2004.
In 2007 the museum sold its last vacant parcel of land for $125 million to Hines, which decided to develop the Nouvel building and include space for the museum.
Mr. Nouvel originally designed the tower, at 53 West 53d Street, with a spire rising 1,250 feet — matching the top floor of the Empire State Building — and Nicolai Ouroussoff predicted in The Times that it would be “the most exhilarating addition to the skyline in a generation.”
But residents protested the height and the Department of City Planning demanded that Mr. Nouvel cut 200 feet from the top. He did so, and in 2009 the City Council approved plans for a tower that is to rise 1,050 feet.
The museum is deciding what to put at ground level at the former folk art building site — perhaps additional retail or another restaurant, Mr. Lowry said. (Its upscale restaurant, the Dining Room at the Modern, received three stars from Pete Wells in The Times last month.)
“We bought the site,” Mr. Lowry said, “and our responsibility is to use the site intelligently.”
Ms. Tsien said she could not recall another example of such a high-profile architectural project being demolished so soon after it was built. “Museums have opened and closed and buildings have shifted,” she said, “but I don’t know about being torn down.”
In one of the most significant gifts in the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the philanthropist and cosmetics tycoon Leonard A. Lauder has promised the institution his collection of 78 Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures.
The trove of signature works, which includes 33 Picassos, 17 Braques, 14 Légers and 14 works by Gris, is valued at more than $1 billion. It puts Mr. Lauder, who for years has been one of the city’s most influential art patrons, in a class with cornerstone contributors to the museum like Michael C. Rockefeller, Walter Annenberg, Henry Osborne Havemeyer and Robert Lehman.
The gift was approved by the Met’s board at a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Scholars say the collection is among the world’s greatest, as good as, if not better than, the renowned Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures in institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Together they tell the story of a movement that revolutionized Modern art and fill a glaring gap in the Met’s collection, which has been notably weak in early-20th-century art.
“In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the forefront of early-20th-century art,” Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director, said. “It is an unreproducible collection, something museum directors only dream about.”
And many did. Discussions between Mr. Lauder and the Met went on for years, first with Philippe de Montebello, its longtime director who retired in 2008, and more recently with Mr. Campbell. While Mr. Lauder declined to say who else courted his collection, officials in the museum world have said the National Gallery of Art in Washington was among them. But as a New Yorker aware that his art could radically transform one of the city’s most historic institutions, he saw the Met as a perfect fit.
“Whenever I’ve given something to a museum, I’ve wanted it to be transformative,” Mr. Lauder explained. “This wasn’t a bidding war. I went knocking, and the door opened easily.”
In the New York art scene, which is heavily populated with big-time collectors, Mr. Lauder is a singular figure. While many of his peers have made splashy acquisitions, seduced by the latest trends, he has quietly and steadily built a museum-worthy collection with a single focus, on Cubism.
His gift comes without restrictions so it can be displayed as curators see fit. The Met is already beginning to receive the art, according to officials there, for an exhibition scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
Mr. Lauder, 80, has also spearheaded the creation of a research center for Modern art at the Met, supported by a $22 million endowment that he has helped finance along with museum trustees and supporters.
The collection, which Mr. Lauder began building more than 40 years ago, is a product of taste and timing.
“I liked the aesthetic,” he said on a recent afternoon in his Manhattan apartment. He was in the living room, staring at a still life by Picasso richly punctuated with bits of newspaper and sand. “Back then,” he said, “a lot was still available, because nobody really wanted it.”
It was also relatively inexpensive because the fashion was for Impressionism and post-Impressionism.
Mr. Lauder and his younger brother, Ronald S. Lauder, a founder of the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side, are among the most influential collectors and supporters of art in New York. But while others buy widely, often in multiple periods and styles, Leonard Lauder stands out for his single-minded focus.
“You can’t put together a good collection unless you are focused, disciplined, tenacious and willing to pay more than you can possibly afford,” Mr. Lauder said. “Early on I decided this should be formed as a museum collection,” and “whenever I considered buying anything, I would step back and ask myself, does this make the cut?”
As a result, much of his art comes from some of the world’s most celebrated collections, including those of Gertrude Stein, the Swiss banker Raoul La Roche and the British art historian Douglas Cooper.
The term Cubism first appeared in a review of a 1908 exhibition at Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s Paris gallery, which featured early Cubist works. What began as a collaboration between Picasso and Braque, Cubism became a pioneering movement that redefined concepts of space and time, high and low. Those artists, along with Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, took shapes that were familiar and turned them upside down, dismantling the traditional perspective.
Challenging the romantic view of painting, Cubist artists also began incorporating things like cardboard, sand, sawdust, rope, wood, wallpaper, stencils and bits of newspaper into their paintings, drawings, collages and sculptures. Their work paved the way for abstraction, which dominated Western art for the next 50 years.
Often, Mr. Lauder said, it took him years to find something he wanted to buy. “I’ve made more trips to Switzerland than I’d like to count,” he said with a chuckle. With the help of Emily Braun, an art historian who has worked as Mr. Lauder’s curator for 26 years, he was able to pick and choose the finest works that came on the market.
As a result, most of the works in Mr. Lauder’s collection have a particular historical significance. Two landscapes are from the groundbreaking 1908 Kahnweiler exhibition: Braque’s “Terrace at the Hotel Mistral,” from 1907, and his “Trees at L’Estaque,” from 1908.
“ ‘The Trees at L’Estaque’ is considered one of the very first Cubist pictures,” Ms. Braun said. “It created a new form of pictorial space that Braque arrived at from his close study of Cézanne’s landscapes.”
Rebecca Rabinow, a curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s department of Modern and contemporary art, noted other milestones included in the gift. “There are so many firsts in this collection,” she said.
Picasso’s “Oil Mill,” from 1909, was the first Cubist painting seen in Italy, which influenced the Italian Futurists. Another of his works, “The Fan (L’Independent),” from 1911, is one of the first works in which Picasso experimented with typography, in this case the gothic type masthead from a local French newspaper. Braque’s “Fruit Dish and Glass,” from 1912, is the first Cubist paper collage ever created.
Some of the paintings and sculptures in Mr. Lauder’s collection were particularly radical for their time, like Picasso’s “Woman in an Armchair (Eva),” the artist’s 1913-14 image of his mistress Eva Gouel, in which he translated the female body into his own Cubist language. Picasso’s sculpture “Head of a Woman,” from 1909, is thought to be the first Cubist sculpture.
That many of the works look both forward and back is of particular value to the Met’s curators. Picasso’s embrace of African tribal art, for instance, was crucial to his depiction of nontraditional forms.
“Cubism inspired not just Western artists, but it had a huge global impact,” Ms. Rabinow said. “We can tell so many different stories that we could never tell before.”
Up to now Cubism has been only sparsely represented at the Met. In fact it only received its first Cubist paintings in 1996. In a 2010 review of an exhibition of the Met’s Picasso collection, Holland Cotter noted in The New York Times, “When the Museum of Modern Art was wolfing down audacious helpings of Cubism, the Met was content with a tasting menu of Blue Period, Rose Period and neo-Classical fare.”
This isn’t the first transformative gift Mr. Lauder has made to a museum. As the longtime chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art (he is now its chairman emeritus), he donated millions in art and money, most recently in 2008 when he gave the museum $131 million to shore up its endowment.
While it is the largest gift in the Whitney’s history, it came with strings. Concerned about the future of its landmark Marcel Breuer building, which Mr. Lauder considers the Whitney’s spiritual home, he placed a stipulation on his gift that the building could not be sold for the foreseeable future. At the same time, he quietly masterminded plans for the Met to take over the Breuer building for at least eight years, after the Whitney decamps to its new home in the meatpacking district of Manhattan in 2015.
When the Met gets Mr. Lauder’s collection, Mr. Campbell said, it will take “pride of place” in the museum’s soon to be renovated Modern and contemporary galleries, in its main building. Before then the collection will be exhibited as a whole for the first time at the Met in 2014 in a show organized by Ms. Rabinow and Ms. Braun.
Realizing how his collection could help tell so many different stories when seen in the context of the Met’s encyclopedic holdings, Mr. Lauder did not put restrictions on his gift.
And he stressed that his donation doesn’t mean the end of his collecting. As recently as last month he bought a collage by Gris, which is part of the gift.
“I’ll continue to buy and add to the Met’s collection,” he said, then paused, smiled and added, “But only if the right things come along.”
The art world converges on Miami Beach this week for the 11th edition of the glitzy fair Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) (Dec. 6-9). With over 260 international galleries showing works by upward of 2,000 artists and numerous satellite fairs, ABMB is known for celebrity browsers like Beyoncé,…